Revised law enhances oversight of polluters
More public participation and increased liability placed on polluters are the highlights of the revised Environmental Protection Law, adopted by the country’s top legislature on Thursday.
In its first change in 25 years, the law now has 70 articles, compared with its original 47, and was approved by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee after four draft versions in almost two years.
The article that attracts the most attention entitles eligible social organizations to take legal action against polluters.
To be considered eligible, the organizations must be registered with prefecture-level governments, have been dedicated to environmental protection for more than five years and have a good reputation.
Although the bar for environmental public interest lawsuits was significantly lowered during the revision, some experts and environmental NGOs still believe the threshold is too high.
Yuan Jie, director of the Office for Administrative Law with the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee, said the bar has been set following international practices.
“Environmental public interest cases must be handled by professionals because relevant evidence is hard to collect. The prosecution must be familiar with environmental issues and have good social credibility,” Yuan said, at a news conference on Thursday.
The revised law also increases penalties for violations, including fining polluting companies daily without setting a limit and holding environmental impact assessment agencies jointly liable with polluting enterprises if reports provided by the agencies are found to be forged.